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Ireland to Take in Two Guantanamo Detainees

BY Lea Winerman  July 29, 2009 at 10:16 AM EDT

Guantanamo detainee; AFP/Getty

“In making this decision I am conscious of the intention of the United States to close the center at Guantanamo Bay, in part by transferring detainees no longer regarded as posing a threat to security but who cannot return to their own countries, to other countries willing to accept them,” Ahern said in a statement in Dublin.

He said the decision was made after Irish officials visited Guantanamo last week. It was finalized Wednesday in a meeting with newly arrived American ambassador Dan Rooney, the Justice Ministry said in a statement.

The Obama administration pledged six months ago to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center by January. But it faces many hurdles, including deciding which detainees should be resettled in other countries, prosecuted in criminal courts or tried in military courts.

President Obama asked European countries several months ago to help by taking in some detainees for resettlement. However, few have agreed to do so.

In April, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that France would accept one prisoner, and Italy has agreed to take three. In June, the European Union agreed to a framework for member countries to accept detainees, but did not specify which countries would do so.

Ahern said that the identities and travel details of the men accepted by Ireland would be kept secret. However, the Associated Press reported that two government officials with knowledge of the case said that both detainees are Uzbek nationals. One man, 31-year-old Oybek Jabbarov, has been the focus of months of campaigning by Irish human rights groups to bring him there.

Jabbarov says that he was living with his wife and child as refugees near the Afghan-Uzbek border in 2001 when he was kidnapped by soldiers from the National Alliance, a military group at war with the Taliban, and delivered to U.S. troops to collect bounty.

He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in 2002 and cleared for release in 2007.